Sunday, January 21, 2007

Taking Stock of the Recent Iraq Trends Posts: A demonstration of future possibilities

So far in our recent series of posts on trends on the ground in Iraq, we have created a number of trend data files (Iraq-RR-Example.csv and ohanlon-key-factors.csv) and trend visualization documents (Combine-Iraq-Trends and vizualizing-trends-ohanlon-testimony.pdf) that we hope have helped make the situation in Iraq more understandable, more quickly, to a wider number of individual citizens. If you want a quick refresher of how easy it is to look at more than 50 important trends in Iraq, just download the two pdf documents noted above and see what you think.

We believe that this approach results in radical time savings and increased in depth and breadth of coverage and therefore understanding.

We also hope that by taking these steps and preparing this demonstration of what other new and creative things might be done with the available trend data that this work will benefit even the key decision makers who are directly or indirectly involved in the day to day situation in Iraq and even those who are regularly spending a substantial portion of their time looking at and interpreting trend data.

We would enjoy hearing your comment and feedback on whether you think this demonstration of the possibilities represents a path worth pursuing further.

Here's a more detailed summary of what we have covered and accomplished so far in this series of posts that we began on January 13th.
  1. we pulled together a series of charts about key trends in Iraq drawn from several important source documents and web sites and we have made this whole set of charts more readily viewable by assembling them into a single downloadable pdf document - Combine-Iraq-Trends.
  2. In this January 18th post we showed how we could combine raw tabular trend data from several different sources and paste it into a single readily-reusable (RR) csv file. This meant we could then easily calculate and visualize some new, important, and previously invisible trends such as the wounded to killed ratio or the three month moving average for troop fatalities and we could save the original combined trend data with the new calculated trend factors together in a single csv file: Iraq-RR-Example.csv that others could then examine and use directly.
  3. We then took a more elaborate case and showed how straightforward it was to transform a table of 30 key factors from Michael O'Hanlon's testimony into a readily reusable trend data file - ohanlon-key-factors.csv. - and then use that file to generate a series of easily viewable trend charts - vizualizing-trends-ohanlon-testimony.pdf.
  4. And finally, in our most recent posts, we demonstrated that even though we had already pulled together and presented more than 50 different trend charts, that there were still rather important factors, whose trends we had not yet looked at. In this post yesterday, we listed more than 20 important factors that were mentioned as part of the verbal argument presented by Michael O'Hanlon in his testimony, but which did not show up in his table of trend factors. And in our most recent post today, we showed how a close reading of the Brookings Iraq Index allowed us to discover more than 50 important additional factors that could help us imagine a fuller picture of what is going on in Iraq.
If you want to read the whole series, the following link will take you to the listing for the January 2007 posts: Change-over-time-January-2007.

With so many factors to consider, you might feel this is daunting. In upcoming posts we will directly address any fears you might have that handling 100 or more factors might be too difficult or beyond your reach and show you how the approach of using Readily Reusable data combined with time saving tools of which TLViz and CSVPNG are useful models can save the day.

We will also be taking a look at what we might do next to make the trend data coming out of Iraq even more useful and valuable for both ordinary citizens and for decision makers.

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